OCEAN PINES — Hundreds gathered last Friday to honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces during Worcester County’s 8th Annual Veterans Day Tribute in Ocean Pines.
While all veterans were honored at the event, those who served during one conflict in particular were the special focus of this year’s tribute.
“This year we are recognizing veterans from the Vietnam War,” announced Ocean Pines Association President Tom Terry.
Richard Tanner, a former member of the United States Marine Corps, characterized the event by reading a segment from the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
“There are no noble wars, only noble warriors,” said Tanner.
Friday’s ceremony featured a posting of colors by the American Legion, the presentation of a memorial wreath at the Worcester County Veterans Memorial, and songs from the Delmarva Chorus and the Berlin Intermediate School Chorus, among other things.
Worcester County Sheriff Reggie Mason, a former Marine who served during Vietnam, gave the official address.
During his 20-month tour, Mason played a part in one of the most brutal and costly periods of the war known as the “TET Offensive,” which took place on Jan. 31, 1968.
“I cannot remember if I ever slept,” said Mason of his time at the Marine combat base at Khe Sahn.
Mason related how he and many other marines were under siege at Khe Sahn for nearly three months by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops.
“For 77 days, the Marines’ hill combat base was constantly pounded by the NVA,” he said.
Feb. 8, 1969, continued Mason, was one of the darkest days of the offensive for him.
“I lost one of my best friends that morning,” he remembered.
Unlike his friend and many other Marines, Mason made it through the siege, something he promises he doesn’t take lightly.
“I prayed. I cried. I survived the TET Offensive,” he told the crowd. “To all the war veterans, thank you for your service; for making us safe.”
Toward the end of the tribute, a special moment was taken to remember Prisoners of War (POW) and soldiers who went missing in action.
“May we never forget them for their services and their sacrifice,” said Terry.
The event concluded with a benediction, taps, and a rifle volley by the American Legion Color Guard Post 166, captained by Robert Deickman.